Hello, again friends! So for this months blog post I wanted to share a somewhat tutorial/sewing inspiration I did to modernize a dress I had thifted a few months back at my local Goodwill. The dress was originally five dollars but because it had a purple tag, I was able to take it home for only 1$. There are many times that I go to Goodwill and simply hunt for a tag color because the fabric from outdated clothing can either be upcycled or used for other projects.
If you want to create a similar look, you won’t need much in the way of supplies. Just basic sewing knowledge, a sewing machine, iron, sewing pins or clips, matching thread color, eye and hook closures, a small piece of interfacing (optional), a sewing needle, and elastic (I used 1.25 inch).
A few tips in choosing a dress that will be the easiest to work with:
- The silkier the fabric the harder it is to sew
- Choose a dress that already fits you
- Make sure there isn’t a bustle in the back
The first thing I knew I wanted to do was hem the dress to a point above the knee. To do this, I put the dress on inside out, went and looked in a full-length mirror and with a marker made a slash on the fabric letting me know where to cut. I then took it off, laid it on a flat surface and used a ruler and marker to give myself a straight across guideline to cut from.
Remember to mark the dress a little longer than you want because you’ll lose about a half an inch when hemming the dress. Once you cut off the bottom of the dress, try it on again just to be sure everything looks even and that you have your desired length. Remember that you can always cut more off but you can’t put the fabric back on if it’s cut too short. Set the excess fabric to the side.
Once you are happy with your cut, it’s time to hem. There are tons of tutorials online to create the perfect hem, I’m sure my method is frowned upon by seamstresses but my technique is easy, looks clean, and doesn’t require a million measurements.
All I do is preheat my iron, fold a small portion of the dress bottom up at a time and press the iron to it. The ironing part is important because this will stop your hem from being curled up and super wavy. I then use my wonder clips to hold the fold in place while I sew. (Wonder Clips are just a different way of pinning fabric that I personally find a lot easier to use. You can find them on Amazon very inexpensively and they hold fabric like a dream.)
Once your hem is ironed and pinned in place, take it over to your sewing machine. I used a zig zag stitch on this hem and I try to get as close to the crease of the fabric as possible. When you’ve made it all the way around your dress, take it over to your ironing board and iron the hem with steam. This will flatten out the hem and even hide any imperfections that could occur if you’re new to sewing.
At this point, you officially have a new short dress for your wardrobe, but of course, I wanted to take this project a step forward to create a unique matching belt with all of the extra fabric.
You need to take two measurements at this point. The first being a loose measurement of your waist (mine was 29in), write this number down because this will be the length of your fabric. Then also take a tight measurement of your waist (mine was 26.5in), this will be the length you will cut the elastic at. If you are using 1.25 inch elastic for your belt, you will need to cut a piece of fabric that is your loose waist measurement x 3 inches. You can either draw this onto your fabric or make a pattern piece of paper.
Fold your (in my case) 29in x 3in piece of fabric in half (BE SURE RIGHT SIDES ARE TOGETHER AND WRONG SIDES ARE SHOWING) and sew the long edge closed, leaving two open ends. Then turn your fabric tube inside out so that the raw edge is hidden. Next, I fed the elastic through the fabric and wonder clipped it so that the elastic inside the fabric was flush with the raw edge of the belt. To give the belt a cleaner look, I also slightly tucked the frayed edges of the fabric inward, as pictured. Lastly sew the end closed, being sure to sew the elastic AND fabric together. I used a large zig zag stitch.
Next up is the bow portion of the dress! You can make this as big or as small as you want, and the interfacing is completely optional, but I just knew I wanted a huge girly bow that wouldn’t slouch.
I first cut my interfacing and actually used it as a pattern piece as well. It measured out to be 8 x 10 inches. I only needed to use one piece of interfacing to achieve the bow that I made but if you want it to be super rigid, use two pieces. From there I placed the interfacing on top of the extra fabric and cut two 8 x 10 pieces from it.
Then create a fabric sandwich that will look as followed: 1st piece of fabric with wrong side facing up, 2nd piece of fabric with wrong side facing up, 3rd piece is the interfacing. pin/clip the pieces together, sew along the edges making sure to leave about a 1.5-2inch hole to flip the fabric right sides out. Then sew closed the hole by tucking the raw edges inward, as pictured.
To finish the bow you need to make a center ring of fabric to keep the bow puckered together. I did this by cutting a 3x2 piece of fabric, and just like the initial belt portion of the project, fold that in half with right sides together, pin, sew, and flip the fabric inside out so that the right sides are facing out. Gather the large square you just made (the bow part) in the center and wrap the little piece of fabric around it. Clip it in place and sew it closed to create a loop that finishes off the bow.
To attach the bow to the elastic belt, I lined up where I wanted the bow to sit and took it to the sewing machine. I added a little bit of stitching between the folds of the bow to hold it in place. You can also do this by hand sewing if your fabric doesn’t fit under the presser foot.
Now the last step is to attach the eye hooks! I added two sets of eye hooks because of the thickness of my belt. To do this I just placed the metal hooks on/in the fabric and with a hand sewing needle I put a few stitches in and around the hooks until they felt secure when I tugged on them. You do not need to use eye and hooks, you could also use snaps or any other type of clasp.
AND THERE YOU HAVE A FINISHED BELT! This was my first time making a fabric covered belt out of recycled fabric, and while I am sure there are many different ways to make them, I got creative and used items I had in my sewing box to not only keep cost down but also got to experiment with materials I don’t get to use very often.
All in all, I am extremely happy with how this project turned out. I am not a master at sewing, and yet I created a dress that I am excited to wear all summer long. It's light enough to wear on hot summer days, but still has my quirky flair with the large matching belt. What’s great about this project is that even if you don’t have enough left over fabric from your dress alterations, you can always use scrap fabric from other projects to contrast colors and make the belt OR the bow stand out!